Friday, February 3, 2023

Maternal Immune System Deficiencies Linked to Risk of Mental Illness in Offspring

Rare deficiencies in the immune systems of mothers, called primary antibody immunodeficiencies (PIDs), may be associated with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders and suicidal behavior in their offspring, a study in JAMA Psychiatry has found. Primary antibody immunodeficiencies are associated with recurrent infections, allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

Josef Isung, M.D., Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and colleagues analyzed data from Sweden’s National Patient Register for 4,294,169 people who lived in Sweden at any time between 1973 and 2013, among whom 7,270 had a mother or father with PIDs. They found that people with mothers who had PIDs had a 17% increased risk of psychiatric disorders and a 20% increased risk of suicidal behavior compared with people who did not have mothers with PIDs.

Increased risk varied among different types of psychiatric disorders as follows:

  • 71% increased risk of bipolar disorders
  • 49% increased risk of autism spectrum disorders
  • 33% increased risk of obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • 30% increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • 23% increased risk of major depressive disorder and other mood disorders

Furthermore, people whose mothers had both PIDs and autoimmune diseases had a 24% increased risk of psychiatric disorders and a 44% increased risk of suicidal behavior. People whose fathers had PIDs did not appear to have increased risk of psychiatric disorders or suicidal behavior.

“While our data cannot pinpoint a precise causal mechanism underlying the observed associations, the results add to the existing literature suggesting that the intrauterine immune environment may have implications for fetal neurodevelopment and that a compromised maternal immune system during pregnancy may be a risk factor for psychiatric disorders and suicidal behavior in their offspring in the long term,” Isung and colleagues wrote.

For related information, see the American Journal of Psychiatry article “Maternal Immune Activation and Neuropsychiatric Illness: A Translational Research Perspective.”

(Image: iStock/Cecilie_Arcurs)

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